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The 2023-2024 V-League professional volleyball competition is hot ahead of the 10-day All-Star break. Four games each for men and women from June 16 to 19, and 14 teams will have the All-Star break from June 20 to 29. Before taking a break for a moment, the team should pour all of its energy into the fifth round, which begins on June 30, and start with a slightly higher score.
The men in chaos... have narrowed the gap between the front and middle ranks
The Korean men's team is in chaos. Except for KB Insurance, which was at the bottom with 17 points (4 wins and 19 losses), all six teams can dream of playing spring volleyball.
Woori Card, which had been leading the league since the beginning of this season, has recently lost four consecutive games, despite the fact that its ace pitchers were transferred to the FA and the starting setter trade. On top of that, Samsung Fire & Marine Insurance, which had been running from the bottom last season to the top this season, is also struggling amid a three-game losing streak.
On the other hand, OK Financial Group, which lost all six games in the third round, has sharply increased Leo's share of offense, and is showing an upward trajectory to win all five games in the fourth round, while Hyundai Capital has also risen to a position where it can seek spring volleyball by posting an upward trajectory of five wins and one loss since Choi Tae-woong's dismissal on April 21. With the situation rapidly unfolding, the gap between the front-runner and the middle-ranked team has narrowed sharply. The gap between Woori Card (43 points) and Hyundai Capital (32 points) in the sixth place is only 11. Now, six teams are expected to be able to tie the score in each game.
During the remaining period until the All-Star break, Samsung Fire & Marine Insurance holds the key to the ranking fight. Having lost three consecutive games, Samsung Fire & Marine Insurance will meet with No. 2 Korean Air on Wednesday and face Woori Card on Wednesday. Samsung Fire & Marine Insurance desperately needs a rebound of Yosbani (Cuba), the star player in the early days of the season.
Korean Air, which immediately set its goal for four consecutive losses after winning three consecutive games by engulfing the regular league and the championship at the same time last season, did not settle down to the mid-range until the early and mid-season, but it did not take the lead. Native ace Jung Ji-seok was away for a long time in the aftermath of a back injury, and foreign Apogit Spiker Lincoln Williams (Australia) was also out of the battle line due to a back injury. Korean Air, which relied on the firepower of its native Apogit Lim Dong-hyuk to build a victory, took advantage of Woori Card's sluggishness to take the opportunity to take the lead. It is also a good news that Apogit Murak, an alternative foreigner from Pakistan, completed his perfect adaptation to the V-League by scoring 52 points with an attack success rate of 72.73% against Hyundai Capital on the 12th.
A showdown between OK Financial Group and Hyundai Capital, which will take place on Thursday, is also an eye-catching matchup. Both teams have created fierce competition to rank players. The team that secures three points from here can pave the way for its advance to the top half from the fifth round. OK Financial Group is a team that relies heavily on the firepower of Leo (Cuba), one of the best foreign players in the history of the V League. In contrast, as the triangle formation of Ahmed (Libya), Heo Soo-bong, and Jeon Kwang-in distributes attacks, attention is focusing on which team's volleyball team can bring the victory.
Women in Triple Competition Amid Hyundai Engineering & Construction's Dominance
Hyundai Engineering & Construction (55 points) is dominating the women's team. Hyundai Engineering & Construction, which lacked any specific reinforcement elements up until this season, was only expected to be a dark horse. While Yang Hyo-jin, the best middle blocker in the team, is firmly taking the lead, Moma, a foreign player with "experience," is also leading the team's offense in good health. Amid Kim Da-in, who has grown into a setter for the national team, fierce competition among national team players, including Lee Da-hyun, Jung Ji-yoon, and Kim Yeon-kyeon, also strengthens the team's power. Foreign player Wi-Fi (Thailand) is also in charge of the left side of the team in the Asian quarter, overshadowing the prospect of "ooh-heung" (the winner will be Heungkuk Life anyway).
Heungkuk Life Insurance (50 points), which has "Volleyball Empress" Kim Yeon-kyung, is worried about foreign player Elena's poor performance. Heungkuk Life also won the match against Korea Expressway Corporation on the 12th with a set score of 3-1, but Yelena scored only eight points. Although Yelena's sluggish performance was covered by the fierce battle of foreign player Raina (Japan) in the Asian quarter, Yelena's slump is a clear source of instability for Heungkuk Life Insurance, which is seeking to win the title at the same time as the regular league and the championship.
GS Caltex (40 points), IBK Industrial Bank of Korea (33 points), and Jeong Kwan-gwan (33 points) are also drawing attention. GS Caltex, which is ranked third by seven points, is in an advantageous situation, but IBK Industrial Bank and Jeong Kwan-gwan are also showing off their strong power, so it is noteworthy whether the women's first semi-playoff will take place.
In the remaining four women's games, the showdown between GS Caltex and Heungkuk Life Insurance, which will take place at Jangchung Gymnasium on Thursday, and IBK Industrial Bank of Korea and Chung Kwan-kwan will likely have a significant impact on the ranking battle on Wednesday. If GS Caltex loses to Heungkuk Life Insurance and any team wins three points in the game on Wednesday, GS Caltex will also be in danger of ranking third. In contrast, if GS Caltex catches Heungkuk Life Insurance, it will be able to prepare for the fifth round with more leeway.
On top of that, attention is focusing on whether Pepper Savings Bank, which is just two losses shy of recording the team's longest losing streak (17 consecutive losses), will emerge from the mire of consecutive losses against Korea Expressway Corporation (16th) and Hyundai Engineering & Construction (19th). Given that Hyundai Engineering & Construction has strong capabilities, it is preferable for the state-run Korea Expressway Corporation to make a sacrifice to get out of consecutive losses.
Tuesday, January 16, 2024